Anatomy of a Nasty Comment

December 6th, 2010

Dear Charles,

I am a blogger who frequently says things on her blog that tend to enrage a certain segment of society. In particular I frequently say the absolutely wrong things to religious homeschoolers. Whenever I do this – my blog filter catches a lot of angry comments and I have to read through them and decide whether or not to let them post to my blog. Usually I let them through, but some are so vile that I can’t make myself push the ‘approve’ button and they end up in ‘spam’ or ‘trash’ instead. After a day or two of filtering these comments, I start to develop a high level of anxiety. I find it harder and harder to look at my blog because I don’t want to read the comments that have posted that did not require approval nor do I want to open my in-box and read through the comments that are waiting for me there.

Here are a few examples…

“Your poor kids.”

“Hey dufus-not all WTM board members are Christian. Some of us go there to garner info on the latest classical homeschool curriculum. There are plenty of secular folks there as well. It was disappointing to see the waste of space devoted to your inane babbling blog. Catch a clue and stop hiding your profound insecurity behind your newfound cliche of atheism. What is next in your arsenal of hate?”

“Stopped reading when you completely got the description of The Well Trained Mind completely wrong, and you became completely offensive.  Will not continue reading more lies and rubbish.  Adding to my list of blocked sites.”

“I can’t believe that your husband hasn’t left you.”

“Your husband must hate being married to you.”

“No, I am not a huge fan of hers but from what I have seen so far, she doesn’t have a bad word to say about anyone which is more than can be said about you.  I hope people think twice before inviting you to their homes, you may turn on them for no reason as well.”

“Rechelle, your blog is so full of misinformation and hate for anything you don’t understand or ‘believe’ in, it is a really pity you aren’t ‘plugged.’”

What I am wondering Charles – is how much longer this is going to affect me so intensely? At what point will I be able to shrug the hate away? At what point do the barbed comments begin to slide off of my back like water from a greased up chicken? When do I become so immune to these low aimed insults, that I no longer flinch when I read them? Are there any breathing exercises? Should I take up jogging? Would it help if I eliminate dairy from my diet? I am sorry to tell you this – but I probably won’t be able to stop writing about issues that tend to infuriate religious homeschoolers. I am kind of like a two year old in this regard. There’s something in me that likes poking the pig with the blunt end of a wet twig. As a result, am I just going to have to suck it up? Can you help me?

Over caffeinated, anxiety riddled, bad mother, awful wife, terrible house guest, miscreant, and horrible human being,

Me

Dear Rechelle –

Yes, it seems that there are people who find the sort of thing you post on your blog upsetting and that some of these people, for reasons that are not clear to me, read your blog. Since you will likely be unable to stop expressing viewpoints that might be distasteful to this small segment of your readership, your best bet may be to develop a way of looking at the icy barbs these people sometimes hurl at you that will melt the ice to a point where the barbs will more easily slide down the newly greased feathers on your back and into oblivion.

First, it may help you to realize that although a comment might be ostensibly intended to hurt you, it’s not really personal. The authors of such comments don’t really hate you (although they really aren’t too fond of your blog posts); they can’t possibly hate you, because they don’t know you, and they couldn’t possibly hate you if they knew you. You’re just a convenient object at which they can direct the eruptions they deem necessary to vent the magma that has been set to roiling and gurgling inside them by your posts. What the commenters really want to punish are the points you raise, but even in a rage-impaired state of mind in which all they are capable of coming up with are mean, base, dull-witted comments, they are somehow still able to grasp the fact that the points you raise are impervious to pain but that you are not (people in rage-impaired states of mind often feel strong desires to hurt something, whereas people who simply disagree with you will be content to assail your points), so unfortunately, you are chosen to suffer for the actions of the offending points. For what it’s worth, the commenters might take your posts personally because they’ve invested so much of themselves in the beliefs and practices you question that those beliefs and practices have become a part (often a very large part) of their identity, and thus they may perceive your criticisms as personal attacks.

Also, consider that there are a couple of positive things about negative reactions to your blog posts

1. A spiteful comment can be a sign that you’ve made someone think about, or brought them to the edge of thinking about, something they don’t want to think about, which means that what you’ve written is thought-provoking and is probably inspiring countless less-closed-off people to explore new contemplative avenues even as the more-closed-off people are typing their nasty comments and clicking the “Submit” button.

2. It seems that the light emanating from the content of your posts is unbearably blinding to eyes that do not wish to adjust, and some of the owners of such eyes apparently take the precaution of blocking your site to minimize the danger of being subjected to this glare again if your blog ever comes to life and tries to invade their computers. Some of these people might even want to hire a security service for extra protection. I plan to begin offering such a service and guaranteeing to keep your blog from forcibly invading the computers of my customers for a low (that is to say, high) monthly fee (possible slogan: “Nice computer. I’d hate to see anything happen to it.”). I intend to advertise this service on the blog, so that will bring in some extra blog revenue.

If none of this helps, perhaps you could at least minimize the number of nasty comments you’re subjected to by sending such comments to “spam” or “trash” and adjusting your settings so that future comments from the authors of the offending comments are sent to “spam” or “trash” without your having to look at them. You could also block the e-mail addresses of those who clutter up your in-box with vile dreck. For those who will accuse you of “not keeping it real” for not approving every single stink bomb or “you suck!” that’s tossed in your direction, you could post a statement clearly detailing your criteria for what is and is not acceptable with regard to comments and warning potential commenters that they will be doomed to spend eternity in the fires of “spam” or “trash” if they violate those criteria. I recommend that fate for anyone whose comment seems to be intended only to wound you and offers nothing of substance to the dialogue and for anyone who resorts to name calling (anything that begins “Hey dufus” should be deleted, even if what follows the salutation is the most thought-provoking, insightful, and moving piece you’ve ever read) for starters, and you’ll probably want to broaden those criteria a bit. Don’t forget to delete any rule-breaking comments that posted without approval and to cast their authors into the fiery pit. It’s your blog, and by god, people are going to have to follow your rules while they’re under your roof.

Rule-abidingly,

Charles

Comments

  • Diane:

    If I’d sent you a reply, it would have been much like what Charles said. Two days ago, I was called a piece of flotsam and compared to Medusa because I spoke my HONEST mind.

    Like you, I have to ‘think about it’ and finally after a couple of years, have come to just let it go easily. It took a while to do this. Then I realized that I didn’t know these people personally; they were ‘cyber-people’, and the REAL friends I have know me PERSONALLY, and are used to my giving an honest and thorough analogy of something.

    I know I’ve ‘worn people out’ who didn’t want to THINK – who wanted to just accept something they’d heard on the TV or siding in with a friends who had a certain viewpoint, so they ‘parroted’ that viewpoint because it was easier than HAVING AN ORIGINAL ONE OF THEIR OWN.

    Intelligent people will always be a target for the ignorant and the lazy; the bigoted and the insecure people who have to throw nasty remarks and be hateful in order to feel better about their short-comings and their failures.

    Pity those people – that’s what I’ve learned to do. I enjoy your blog because it’s always to the point and very honest. I admire that in you, and I read very few blogs because I don’t like the shallowness of the comments and post. Take care and keep it going…

    Diane

    • Bravo, Diane. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Rechelle is a sparkling gem in the blog world that’s so full of cracked glass…

      • km:

        Rechelle, your goal is not to have every single commentator agree with you. Make it your goal to foster discussion. Idiots will make angry childish comments but that’s because they may not be bright enough to enter a “discussion”. Maybe if they see how people can converse even if they have different opinions they will learn and thus you become a public service.
        I am getting tired of people who take it personally when I don’t agree with them. I still like them. Why is there such an obsession in America to associate only with those you agree with? We don’t have to agree on politics, sushi, education, etc. though it does help if my buddies enjoy wine. I am not religious, I enjoy discussing education, I don’t like country music. I am not looking for mirror image friends. I am looking for lively conversation, healthy disagreement and thought-provoking commentary.
        I like RechelleUnplugged for this reason. Keep up the good work Rechelle, and don’t let the haters get you down.

        • Rechelle:

          I agree KM – the discussion is interesting and I certainly don’t need to have everyone agree with me. In fact I miss some of the debate that used to occur on this blog. It’s the personal attacks that get to me and then it sort of swells into a general freak-out and then I need to hibernate for a few days until I recover. I think what Charles has said here is quite helpful and intend to take it to heart.

          • km:

            I know. Some of the comments are so nasty. We’re rooting for you, Rechelle.

  • I agree with what Diane and Dear Charles have said, you have to pity the people who say such hateful and hurtful things. It seems to me that someone’s life must be pretty unhappy if they have to say such horrid things to a total stranger on the internet. Keep doing what you do and people will keep reading!

  • Mo:

    Charles said “…you could post a statement clearly detailing your criteria for what is and is not acceptable with regard to comments and warning potential commenters that they will be doomed to spend eternity in the fires of “spam” or “trash” if they violate those criteria. I recommend that fate for anyone whose comment seems to be intended only to wound you AND OFFERS NOTHING OF SUBSTANCE TO THE DIALOGUE and for anyone who resorts to NAME CALLING…” (emphasis added).

    How about somthing simple and sweet: “Please note that while lively discussion and strong opinions are encouraged, I reserve the right to delete any comment I deem inappropriate for any reason whatsoever without consent.”

  • M C:

    I actually liked this post…and makes me like you a little more. But what I don’t understand is why you do what hurts you to other people on a daily basis in your blog? Many of the nasty comments on here have come from you.

  • Syl:

    MC, there’s a crucial difference: this is Rechelle’s blog – anyone who chooses to visit this site knows that they will be reading her outspoken and direct opinions. If they’re offended, they can close their web browser. Rechelle isn’t looking them up and emailing them her comments. On the other hand, the folks who are compelled to make nasty personal comments to or about Rechelle are taking it directly to her, personally. It’s kind of like this: it’s one thing to comment to your friends – or the world in general – that you think people who wear suspenders look ridiculous. But walking up to an old gent who’s wearing a pair and telling him he looks dopey is something else entirely. The first is an opinion (whether you agree with it or not) and the second is just downright rude (even if it’s true). (Disclaimer: I have no opinion concerning the fashion sense of those who wear suspenders.)

  • M C:

    I’m specifically referring to posts about Ree Drummond or anyone who defends her –sure this is Rechelle’s blog but she is very specifically attacking her in a way that is pretty damn direct and would be very easy for Ree to find. (I’m still trying to figure out where exactly all the hate came from anyway). Rechelle has a problem with how Ree Drummond runs her blog…but most of her comments attack her looks, personality, etc.

    Rechelle, you reap what you sow and you are sure as heck sowing a whole lot of hate. I’m not trying to defend personal attacks, but when you attack specific people or beliefs that people hold dear, what do you really expect?

    You know, I bet you are a lot of fun in person–maybe even someone I might like to spend an afternoon with. But some of the things you write are just so downright mean and nasty–it makes you come off as petty and rude, though you might really not be at all.

    I’ll admit to making some pretty mean comments myself. You probably wont believe it, but I am actually a pretty non-confrontational person. I read and comment on other blogs and have never had anything mean to say, but there is just something about this one that makes me want to spit vitriol. I don’t like it–I usually close the page feeling pretty bad about myself. Yet I still keep coming back–I guess I’m hoping maybe you’ll write something to counteract my view of you.

  • eclecticdeb:

    A-Freakin-Men!

  • Robbyn:

    I’m not expecting you to change what you write, etc, but I can answer to the anger issue. I don’t expect anyone to agree with my beliefs, and I’m usually up for a good debate, am willing to listen to things I disagree with, or consider alternate points. And I like sharp humor and appreciate irony, sarcasm, etc. Being raised in the South, I’ve heard the traditional coaching that says in order to keep the conversation going, avoid bringing up politics and religion, etc. The times I’ve become offended are not when you express your different opinion about hot topics but when the defense of your position becomes insulting to those who hold the opposing view. That said, I can’t stand the current trend of people having to be politically correct in type or speech in order to never offend anyone…this is a free country in that respect, thank goodness. I’m not crazy about when you lump all belief in God with the christian view of a belief in Jesus, etc., which Jews don’t share at all. Yet the verses, such as the laws, from the “old testament” as it’s known in the christian world were never intended for anyone but Israel, nor were they written for another audience. Jews don’t proselytize, so people are free to believe or not believe what they want. It’s christians who pick and choose from the Hebrew scriptures, ie “old testament” but no christian believes in keeping any of the laws because christian belief is that they were replaced with the christian definitionof “grace.” And for anyone who would on the other hand accuse Jews of being insular, the religion is open to anyone who wants to join the Covenant. I take issue with your bashing my religion by picking and choosing laws no one is trying to coerce you to believe in, simply because you are burned by the inconsistencies in historical christianity’s definition of God…or anyone’s. Most of the entire world believes in either a God or multiple gods. So don’t believe it…and that’s fine. Just please peacefully go your way without aiming darts at at least the Jewish contingent who has NO evangelistic intent, expectation, but who paid a very high price even at the hand of christians historically to preserve the very writings you excoriate. I’m actually GREAT with your not agreeing! Just don’t bash what’s sacred to me since I am not going around telling anyone they’re going to burn in hell if they don’t believe the same as I. Well, of course, you can do what you want…it’s your blog :) I won’t flame you with angry responses. But I do step away from time to time. I agree that in person I think we’d be great neighbors and have a great time as long as no one eggs my menorah at hannukah :)

    • Charles:

      Robbyn –

      First, allow me to apologize for misspelling your name both times I responded to your comments about my semicolon post.

      Second, does the Jewish contingent not also pick and choose from the Hebrew Scriptures, keeping some of the laws and disregarding others? For instance, I don’t believe any of the Jewish people I know would endorse the system outlined in Rechelle’s recent (December 7) post about rape laws from Deuteronomy, and I suspect you wouldn’t either. If I’m right about that and most Jews, Christians, atheists, etc., agree that those rape laws are less than reasonable, then is there anything offensive to you about that post? If not, is there a particular post(s) you can point to that you have found offensive?

      It’s difficult to comment on Christianity in any depth if the foundation of Christianity (i.e., the Hebrew Scriptures) is not to be mentioned. The God portrayed in the “old testament” is understood by Christians to be the same God portrayed in the “new testament,” and the Hebrew Scriptures are referenced often in the “new testament,” so the Hebrew Scriptures seem very relevant to any discussion of Christianity, and I can’t think of a post in which Rechelle’s criticisms have focused on Judaism outside the context of Christianity.

  • Secret Agent:

    Ree didn’t like her. Hell, she came over with lice, ya gotta expect that to put you on the s@#& list.. And she really wanted Ree to like her. Her feelings were hurt. So, here ya go. But, the posts lately are creative and funny, if filled with vitriol. Oh well, carry on. You’re in too deep to turn back now, aren’t ya?

    • Rechelle:

      Actually – I am enjoying myself too much to turn back now Iola.

      • I’m so glad you feel that way, Rechelle! Your blog gives me great laughs, fodder to chew on, topics to mull over and bravery to carry on in my journey of non-religiousness! YOU ROCK!